Jessa R. Love

Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Dr. James E. Carr

Second Advisor

Dr. Linda A. LeBlanc

Third Advisor

Dr. John Austin

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Open Access


The prevalence of autism spectrum disorders among children aged 4 to 17 years is approximately 5.5 to 5.7 out of 1000 children (Centers for Disease Control, 2006). It is not uncommon for children with these disorders to display a wide range of problem behavior (e.g., Farrar-Schneider, 1992; Oswald et al., 1992). While a number of studies have reported aggregated data on the reinforcement functions of such problem behavior, none have reported the distribution of functions with a sample comprised solely of individuals on the autism spectrum. Thus, the purpose of this study was to examine individual client data from an outpatient clinic serving children with autism spectrum disorders to investigate potential relations between the function of problem behavior and several variables: diagnosis, behavioral topography, functional assessment method, and intervention recommended. Results indicate that social reinforcement was involved in the maintenance of problem behavior for the vast majority of cases, suggesting that these individuals lack socially appropriate responses to gain access to such reinforcement, or that their social environments are not adequately responsive to less problematic behavior (Iwata et al., 1994).